The Lord High Chancellor of Ireland (commonly known as Lord Chancellor of Ireland) was the highest judicial office in Ireland until the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. From 1721 to the end of 1800, it was also the highest political office of the Irish Parliament: the Chancellor was Speaker of the Irish House of Lords. The Lord Chancellor was also Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of Ireland. In all three respects, the office mirrored the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.


There is a good deal of confusion as to precisely when the office originated. Until the reign of Henry III of England, it is doubtful if the offices of Irish and English Chancellor were distinct.[1] Only in 1232 is there a clear reference to a separate Court of Chancery (Ireland). Early Irish Lord Chancellors, beginning with Stephen Ridell in 1186, were simply the English Chancellor acting through a Deputy. In about 1244 the decision was taken that there must be separate holders of the office in England and Ireland.[2] Elrington Ball states that the salary was fixed at sixty marks a year, equivalent to forty pounds sterling. Although it was twice what an itinerant justice was paid at the time, it was apparently not considered to be a very generous amount: Richard Northalis, Lord Chancellor 1393–97, complained that it did not cover even a third of his expenses, and asked for an extra payment of twenty pounds a year. In his case, it is thought that the hostility of his colleagues in government was responsible for the poor salary.

In the earlier centuries, the Lord Chancellor was always a cleric, and usually an Englishman. Lay Chancellors became common after the Reformation, and no cleric was appointed Chancellor after 1665, but although there were a number of exceptions, the Crown retained a preference for English-born Chancellors until the mid-nineteenth century.

Lord Chancellors of Ireland, 1186–1922

12th century

13th century

14th century

15th century

Chancellor 1479 and 1482-1483)[16]

16th century

17th century

18th century

19th century

20th century

Term of office Other Peerage(s) Monarch
Sir Samuel Walker
12 December
13 August
Baronet in 1906 Edward VII (Lord Chancellor, 1892-5)
George V
Redmond Barry[31]
26 September
11 July
(sitting Attorney-General)
Sir Ignatius O'Brien[32]
10 April
1918 Baronet in 1916
Baron in 1918
(sitting Attorney-General)
Sir James Campbell[33]
4 June
1921 Baronet in 1917
Baron in 1921
(Attorney-General, 1905 and 1916–17; Lord Chief Justice, 1917-18)
Sir John Ross, Bt.[34]
27 June
27 December
Baronet in 1919


  1. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland, 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol. 1, p. 6
  2. ^ a b Ball p. 8
  3. ^ a b c Ball p. 6
  4. ^ a b c d e Burke, Oliver The history of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland from A.D. 1186 to A.D. 1874 Dublin E. Ponsonby 1879
  5. ^ Otway-Ruthven, A.J. History of Medieval Ireland Barnes and Noble reissue New York 1993 p. 256
  6. ^ Ball p. 79
  7. ^ "The History and Antiquities of the Collegiate and Cathedral Church of St. Patrick Near Dublin, from its Foundation in 1190, to the Year 1819: Comprising a Topographical Account of the Lands and Parishes Appropriated to the Community of the Cathedral, and to Its Members, and Biographical Memoirs of Its Deans" Mason, W.M. p122:Dublin, W.Folds, 1820
  8. ^ Ball p. 80
  9. ^ a b Otway-Ruthven p. 302
  10. ^ Otway-Ruthven p. 3i6
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Ball p. 98
  12. ^ Otway-Ruthven p. 370
  13. ^ Otway-Ruthven, p.386
  14. ^ a b Otway-Ruthven p. 389
  15. ^ Otway-Ruthven p. 391
  16. ^ Ball p.186
  17. ^ Dictionary of National Biography, article on St. Lawrence.
  18. ^ a b Ball p. 130
  19. ^ a b Ball p. 131
  20. ^ Ball p. 250
  21. ^ James Roderick O'Flanagan, The lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of Ireland, 1870, page 345
  22. ^ Ball p. 272
  23. ^ O'Flanagan pp. 536–541
  24. ^ a b Ball Vol. 2 p. 101
  25. ^ Ball Vol. 2 p. 127
  26. ^ Delaney, V.T.H. Christopher Palles Allen Figgis and Co Dublin 1960 p.29
  27. ^ a b Delaney p. 29
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h Delaney p. 177
  29. ^ Healy, Maurice The Old Munster Circuit 1939 Mercier Press edition p. 27
  30. ^ a b Healy p. 27
  31. ^ Healy p. 105
  32. ^ Healy p. 188
  33. ^ Healy p. 242
  34. ^ Healy p. 263